|The Karate Kid character|
|First appearance||The Karate Kid (1984)|
|Created by||Robert Mark Kamen|
|Portrayed by||Ralph Macchio|
|Full name||Daniel LaRusso|
Daniel LaRusso was born on December 18, 1966 in Newark, New Jersey, into an Italian-American family. When he was eight years old, his father David LaRusso died after a 2-year battle with stomach cancer. His last words to his son were, "I love you. Don't you ever forget that!". Daniel's mother Lucille never re-married, believing she already had her happy ending with her husband David, as she knew he loved her and she did him, so out of respect for him, she never married or dated ever again and Daniel was left without a father. In September 1984, Daniel and Lucille moved to Reseda, California, after Lucille accepts a job offer at a computer firm. Shortly after moving to California, Daniel meets and starts a rivalry with Johnny Lawrence, the two-time winner of the All Valley Under-18 Karate Championship after Daniel tried going after his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills. Luckily for Daniel—after being jumped by Johnny and his friends—he met a Karate Master where he lived named Mr. Miyagi, who became his karate mentor and also a very good friend of his, as well as a father figure. It's through this training that Daniel becomes skilled enough to defeat Johnny in the tournament's final match and becomes the new champion. Daniel and Johnny become rivals, and the rivalry has been going on for 37 years.
Over the summer, Daniel gets to spend more time with Mr. Miyagi as they go to Okinawa, where Daniel ends up meeting a girl named Kumiko who becomes his love interest and eventual girlfriend along with also getting in a rivalry with Chozen, who is Sato's karate student and nephew. He ends up defeating Chozen in a fight to the death, although instead of killing him, he obeys Mr. Miyagi's teachings and instead shows mercy to Chozen. Daniel is able to pick up one more Karate Championship in the All-Valley Tournament after being forced to compete in the tournament and defeats Cobra Kai student Mike Barnes, becoming a 2-time champion, and ending Terry Silver and John Kreese's vision of opening up multiple Cobra Kai dojos all across the valley.
By the events of Cobra Kai, Daniel is the owner of a successful car dealership in Southern California. Daniel is now married to his wife Amanda, and, together with their two children Samantha and Anthony, live in a large home with a swimming pool in Encino. Despite his success as an adult, Daniel's rivalry with Johnny Lawrence reignites after LaRusso learns of the return of the Cobra Kai dojo, now run by Lawrence. This drives Daniel to start his own dojo called Miyagi-Do, passing on the teachings of the late Mr. Miyagi to a new generation. This all just ends up causing much rivalry though in the high schooler's lives, as there is a great divide and feud in the school between the Cobra Kai students, and the Miyagi-Do students which ultimately climaxes in an all-out brawl which leads to consequences and backlash for everyone involved.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Widowed mother Lucille LaRusso uproots her only child, Daniel, from their home in New Jersey and moves them both to the South Seas Apartments in Reseda, California. Daniel is invited by his new neighbor, Freddy Fernandez, to a beach party, where he meets Ali Mills. He also encounters and is beaten in a fight by Ali's ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence. During his first month in school, Daniel is constantly bullied by Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang. At the school's Halloween dance, Daniel attempts to get back at Johnny by placing a hose above the toilet stall where Johnny is rolling a joint, getting him wet. However, his scheme backfires, and he is chased by Johnny and his gang, who corner him outside his apartment building and assault him until Mr. Miyagi, the apartment's maintenance man, intervenes and saves Daniel. The next day, Mr. Miyagi confronts Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese and proposes that Daniel and Johnny settle their feud in the upcoming All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships tournament on December 19. Kreese agrees, but warns that if they do not show up at the tournament, both Daniel and Mr. Miyagi will be declared fair game to Cobra Kai.
Daniel is initially upset with Mr. Miyagi over the arrangement, but Mr. Miyagi assures him that with proper karate training, he will no longer have to worry about Cobra Kai. However, Mr. Miyagi has Daniel do mundane chores at his rest house such as waxing his classic cars, sanding the wood floors, painting the fence, and painting the house. Not understanding his teacher's methods, a frustrated Daniel threatens to quit, but Mr. Miyagi shows that the chores double as defensive techniques, which Daniel has learned through muscle memory. While training, Daniel develops a relationship with Ali. Mr. Miyagi also gives Daniel his yellow 1947 Ford Super De Luxe convertible as a gift on his 18th birthday and a reward for getting his driver's license.
At the tournament, Daniel unexpectedly advances toward the semifinals. Kreese instructs Bobby Brown, one of his more compassionate students and the least vicious of Daniel's tormentors, to put Daniel out of commission. Bobby reluctantly delivers an illegal kick to Daniel's knee, getting himself disqualified while Johnny looks at Kreese in disgust. Just before Johnny is declared the winner by default, Ali informs the tournament announcer that Daniel will fight in the final round. During the fight, Daniel gains the upper hand and gives Johnny a bloody nose. Kreese orders Johnny to sweep Daniel's leg, an unethical move. In fear of his sensei, Johnny hits Daniel's bad leg with an elbow strike and receives a warning from the referee. Upon the restart of the round, Daniel wins the match after landing a crane kick to Johnny's face. Having gained respect for his nemesis, Johnny gives Daniel the trophy. Daniel celebrates the victory as Mr. Miyagi looks on, proud of his student.
The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
At the beginning of the film, as Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are leaving, they see Kreese berating Johnny for placing second and strangling him. Miyagi intervenes and defeats him easily, comically tweaking his nose before walking away. Daniel asks why he didn't kill him, and Mr. Miyagi says "A person with no forgiveness in heart, living worst punishment than death." Six months later, Daniel returns early one morning to Mr. Miyagi's house from his senior prom dressed in a tuxedo and driving the now badly beaten up car Miyagi had given him. Surprised, Mr. Miyagi asks what happened, and Daniel angrily blames Ali for the damage and says that they broke up because she is in love with "a football player from UCLA". Later, when Daniel learns that Mr. Miyagi is going to Okinawa to visit his dying father, he uses his college fund to go with him. Upon their arrival, they meet Sato, a wealthy businessman and Miyagi's former best friend. Later, Daniel meets Kumiko, a teenager who aspires to move to Tokyo and pursue a career in dancing. He also encounters Sato's nephew Chozen Toguchi, and the two become enemies after Daniel inadvertently exposes the corruption in Chozen's grocery business. One day in town, Chozen challenges Daniel to chop a row of ice sheets; however, Daniel wins Chozen's wager by using Mr. Miyagi's breathing exercise and successfully breaking all of the ice sheets. Miyagi tells Daniel to keep his winnings for college. The Toguchi family continues to terrorize the village until a typhoon hits Okinawa. During the storm, Sato is pinned by debris from his family's dojo and rescued by Daniel and Miyagi, while Chozen runs away. Because of this, Sato lets go of his decades-old grudge with Mr. Miyagi and he offers to rebuild the village, disowning his nephew for refusing to help Daniel rescue a little girl from the typhoon. A humiliated Chozen crashes the village's Obon festival, taking Kumiko hostage and challenge Daniel to a fight to the death. Daniel and Chozen fight a brutal and bloody back-and-forth fight, and Miyagi, Sato, and the crowd use their handheld drums to motivate Daniel and defeat his opponent with the Miyagi family drum technique. After gaining the upper hand, Daniel grabs the vanquished Chozen and threatens to end his life by saying, "Live or die, man?!" Chozen chooses death, but, remembering the way Miyagi handled Kreese earlier, Daniel honks Chozen's nose and drops him to the ground. Daniel embraces Kumiko while the villagers cheer him on and Miyagi looks at him proudly.
The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
Daniel and Mr. Miyagi return to Los Angeles from Okinawa to discover that their apartment building has been sold and is undergoing demolition, leaving Daniel homeless and Miyagi unemployed. Lucille is back in New Jersey to care for Daniel's uncle Louie. Mr. Miyagi invites Daniel to stay with him for a while, and Daniel uses the rest of his college fund to help his mentor set up a bonsai tree nursery. Daniel receives an invitation to defend his championship title at the next All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships, but Mr. Miyagi advises him to ignore it, seeing no point in the competition. However, Daniel is confronted by the prodigious and undefeated karateka Mike Barnes, who threatens Daniel into defending his title and steals the shop's bonsai trees. Terry Silver, a friend of Kreese and co-founder of the Cobra Kai dojo, offers to train Daniel for the tournament. Little does Daniel know that this is an elaborate scheme devised by Kreese and Cobra Kai to exact revenge on him by physically weakening him and having him suffer defeat at Barnes' hands. Silver hopes that this will revive Cobra Kai and promises to give Barnes partial ownership of the dojo in exchange for his help. Silver's methods start to corrupt Daniel, who becomes more aggressive and short-tempered as well as alienated from Miyagi and Jessica. Realizing this after he attacks a man at the nightclub by punching him and breaking his nose, Daniel apologizes to Miyagi and Jessica and reconciles with them. Daniel confronts Silver and tells him that he no longer wishes to train under him, after which Silver admits that he set him up. When Kreese reveals himself and Barnes attacks Daniel, Mr. Miyagi saves his pupil and agrees to train him for the tournament.
At the tournament, Barnes swiftly advances to face Daniel in the final round. He uses Silver and Kreese's tactic of scoring a point, then losing it with an illegal move (nearly getting disqualified in the process) until they reach the sudden death round. After Mr. Miyagi prevents him from conceding the match, Daniel performs a kata in the sudden death round. A confused Barnes charges at Daniel, but Daniel flips him to the ground and strikes him to win the tournament. Daniel and Miyagi embrace and celebrate their victory.
The Next Karate Kid (1994)
Although Daniel does not physically appear he is mentioned several times by Miyagi. After accidentally walking in on Julie undressing he says "Miyagi apologize. You see, um, before, uh, live with a friend, Daniel-San. Daniel-San come Miyagi room, Miyagi go Daniel-San room. No big thing. Uh, boy is easier."
Later Miyagi quips "Miyagi have much to learn about girls. Boys easier," referring to Daniel.
Cobra Kai (2018–)
34 years after the first film, Daniel is happily married to his wife Amanda and has two children, Samantha (born 2002) and Anthony (born 2007). He and his wife own the LaRusso Auto Group, a chain of car dealerships in the San Fernando Valley. As part of the dealership chain's commitment to customer satisfaction, Daniel personally gives each new client their own bonsai tree. He unexpectedly meets up with his old nemesis, Johnny Lawrence, when his car is wrecked and sent to his intake lot. Daniel, unaware that his daughter Samantha was a passenger when her friends accidentally caused the wreck, offers to fix his car for free, considering Johnny an old friend. However, he later discovers that Johnny has reopened the Cobra Kai dojo in Reseda. Fearing that Johnny will create a new generation of bullies like those that he and Mr. Miyagi faced in the past, Daniel starts taking steps to undermine Cobra Kai. In addition, Daniel begins to struggle with issues within his family and business. His rivalry with Johnny inadvertently ruins a blossoming romance that Samantha is beginning to form with Johnny's star student, Miguel Diaz. Later, his cousin Louie, who works for him at the dealership, hires a local biker gang to vandalize Johnny's car in Daniel's name, forcing Daniel to fire him and give Johnny a new car as compensation.
Johnny's estranged son Robby Keene gets a job at LaRusso Auto Group to get back at his father. Unaware that Robby is Johnny's son, Daniel takes him in as his karate student. As such, Daniel proves to be a positive influence on Robby, who later turns on his former criminal friends when they plot to rob the dealership by fighting them off with his newfound karate skills and a security camera to protect the dealership. However, upon learning that Robby is Johnny’s son after a furious Johnny shoves him against the wall and breaks one of his All-Valley trophies, Daniel furiously fires Robby and banishes him from his home and business as punishment for his dishonesty while Johnny storms out of the driveway in his new car due to being depressed and outraged at discovering Robby learning karate from Daniel. Undaunted, albeited saddened by this rejection, Robby participates in the All Valley Karate Tournament against Cobra Kai as an independent fighter, his determination impressing Daniel and his wife. In the semifinals, Robby's shoulder is badly injured when Cobra Kai student Hawk attacks him from behind. After Robby apologizes to Daniel for his deception about his parentage and strained relationship with Johnny, Daniel decides to reconcile with Robby by telling Robby that Johnny has been traumatized by his past history with Kreese and resume being Robby's sensei, coaching him for the duration of the final match, but Robby loses a close fight to Miguel, who fights dishonorably by exploiting Robby's injury. With teacher and student reconciled, Daniel plans to expand the Miyagi-Do style and philosophy with an official dojo to oppose Cobra Kai with Robby as his senior student.
Daniel opens the Miyagi-Do dojo and offers his lessons for free, threatening Cobra Kai's business. He takes Robby in as well after the utilities are shut off in Robby's mother's apartment due to missed bills, and proceeds to train him and Samantha together. When he heads to Johnny’s dojo to tell him Robby is staying with them, he sees that Kreese has returned. Unfortunately, Daniel has trouble acquiring students, most of whom are not receptive to the chore-based muscle memory training style and defensive techniques he used himself.
Daniel tries to be the bigger man after Cobra Kai upstages their demonstration at the local Valley Fest, even refusing to make use of footage of him dispatching of three purse-snatchers caught on Robby’s phone. He also takes on Demetri as a student, which proves challenging at first due to Demetri's constant whining and desire to take shortcuts. However, at the prodding of Kreese and without Johnny’s knowledge, Hawk leads a small group of Cobra Kai students in vandalizing Daniel’s dojo and his prized convertible, and stealing Mr. Miyagi's Medal of Honor. This pushes Daniel too far and he confronts Johnny at the Cobra Kai dojo, leading to numerous students walking out to join Miyagi-Do. Unfortunately, despite this success, Daniel's passion leads to him blowing Amanda and Anoush off at an important meeting and neglecting his auto business, forcing an irritated Amanda to run it alone and leading to loss of staff and declining sales and causing Anoush to quit working for LaRusso Auto and go work for Tom Cole.
Despite an uneasy reconciliation with Johnny, at the prodding of Amanda and Johnny's girlfriend, Miguel's mother Carmen, the rivalry flares again after a misunderstanding caused by Robby bringing Samantha to spend the night at Johnny's apartment after she gets drunk at a party, resulting in Daniel cutting ties with Johnny and Robby. To make matters worse, the animosity between the two begins to affect their respective students, and the growing tension between the dojos finally explodes into a massive karate war on the first day of school as Cobra Kai student Tory Nichols chooses to pick a fight with Samantha over a drunken kiss with Miguel. By the time the fight is over, Samantha is hospitalized with broken ribs and lacerations on her right arm from her fight with Tory, while Miguel is paralyzed and inadvertently crippled by Robby. This event also allows Kreese to take control of Cobra Kai and force Johnny out. A furious Amanda demands that Daniel close down the dojo and stop all karate activities to prevent future incidents. Feeling that he has tainted Mr. Miyagi's legacy, Daniel sadly obliges by taking down a photo of Mr. Miyagi and dismantling the Miyagi-Do dojo.
In the aftermath of the school fight, the LaRussos' reputation has been tarnished. People are actively avoiding their dealerships, they have had to withdraw all of their karate-themed advertising due to Robby's affiliation with Miyagi-Do and actions against Miguel during the school brawl, and Samantha has been afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt due to her fight with Tory and watching Miguel’s fall caused by Robby. Daniel and Johnny briefly team up to find Robby, but go their separate ways after defeating a group of car thieves. Daniel finds Robby at Shannon's rehabilitation facility and has the police take Robby into custody in order to lessen his sentence. Robby angrily accuses Daniel of betrayal and ends their relationship by coldly telling Daniel not to visit him in juvenile hall.
Upon learning that his business rival Tom Cole had a hand in dissolving his business partnership with Doyona International due to Robby’s affiliation with Miyagi-Do and actions against Miguel during the school brawl, Daniel heads to Tokyo in order to salvage his business. Discouraged by his failed negotiations, and after an inspirational talk with a local bartender, Daniel visits Tome Village, where he reunites with Kumiko. After telling her of his personal and business problems, Kumiko gives Daniel closure by reading him one of Mr. Miyagi's final love letters to her aunt Yukie, and also arranges him a meeting with Chozen in order to reconcile. After a few sparring sessions, Chozen gives Daniel a martial arts move scroll describing pressure point techniques. Daniel's business partnership is saved when he learns that Yuna, the bellringer that he saved in the typhoon, is now the Vice President of Sales for Doyona.
Upon returning from his trip, Daniel attempts to bring down Cobra Kai through legal means, but fails. They attempt to enlist Armand Zakarian to evict Kreese, but Kreese beats up Armand's nephews and retaliates by setting a cobra loose in the LaRussos' dealership. Amanda also gets a restraining order taken out against her by Kreese when she slaps him in a fit of rage after Demetri's right arm is broken by Hawk during a fight between Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai students at a laser tag arena. Left with no other options, Daniel and Amanda choose to resume teaching classes at Miyagi-Do, and try to get Samantha's support. To Daniel's shock, Samantha refuses to return, her PTSD having worsened in light of the attack on Demetri. Realizing he's fallen out of touch with her, he decides to take Samantha out on a fishing trip, where he opens up to her about his fight with Barnes in the 1985 tournament as a means of helping her confront her fear of Tory. Samantha's spirits are improved, and Daniel later teaches her a new technique by sparring with her using bo staffs.
When the local city council cancels support for the All Valley Karate tournament due to the aftermath of the school brawl, Daniel attempts to make a case for re-opening it, but is rejected when he and Johnny show visible contempt against Kreese. Just as all hope seems lost, Miguel and Samantha, who have rekindled their romance, make a surprise appearance and persuade the council members to let the tournament go on. The following day, Daniel happens to catch Samantha making out with Miguel in the dojo. Although Daniel is hesitant to trust Miguel on account of him being Johnny's pupil and the amount of drama Samantha has been adding to her love life by going through three failed relationships in the past year (with Kyler, Miguel, and Robby), Samantha stands her ground, makes clear she intends to continue dating Miguel, and persuades her father to get to know him better. When he sits down with Miguel, Daniel is surprised to find how much Miguel's upbringing mirrors his own (both being boys from working class backgrounds with single mothers, and who turned to karate to defend themselves from bullies), and also sets Miguel straight on the missing details of his rivalry with Johnny that Johnny had neglected to tell him. He decides that he is okay with Miguel dating his daughter, so long as they keep their "sparring" to a minimum.
Daniel eventually reunites with Ali during the Christmas holidays and introduces her to Amanda, unaware that Ali had invited Johnny along as her "date." During their dinner together, Ali offers a different reason for their breakup than the one Daniel gave in The Karate Kid Part II: what really happened was that Daniel saw her talking with someone she knew at UCLA and jumped to the wrong conclusion, while the story he told Miyagi about her wrecking his car was because he wanted to save face after failing to heed Ali's warnings about the car's faulty brakes. They reconcile over this misunderstanding, and Ali prompts Daniel and Johnny to put aside their differences. Simultaneously, Samantha and Miguel manage to get the students of Daniel's and Johnny's dojos together at the LaRusso house to put aside their difference to bring down Cobra Kai, just in time to thwart an attack on the house led by Tory and the rest of the Cobra Kai gang.
Learning of the attack on his house, Daniel goes to Cobra Kai to confront Kreese. He saves Johnny just as Kreese is trying to strangle him, and takes on Kreese in a one-on-one fight. After their fight takes them out into the strip mall parking lot, Daniel utilizes the pressure point strikes he learned from Chozen to immobilize Kreese as Kreese tries to attack Daniel with a shard of broken glass. With Johnny's approval, Daniel poises to strike a fatal blow, but Miguel and Samantha's sudden arrival brings him back to his senses. Kreese, Johnny, and Daniel agree to temporarily cease hostilities in order to train for the tournament. Daniel is also devastated to find that Robby has joined Cobra Kai and that Kreese is now grooming him to be one of his star pupils alongside Tory.
Finding common ground with Johnny, the pair train together with their students at the Miyagi dojo.
Notably in 2013, Macchio and Zabka made a guest appearance as themselves in the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother ("The Bro Mitzvah"). In the episode, Macchio is invited to Barney Stinson's bachelor party, leading to Barney shouting that he hates Macchio and that Johnny was the real hero of The Karate Kid. Towards the end of the episode, a clown in the party wipes off his makeup and reveals himself as Zabka. This influenced the launch of Cobra Kai, which gives a balanced perspective for Daniel, Johnny, and other characters.
Also in 2013, Macchio voiced Daniel in an episode of Robot Chicken entitled "Caffeine-Induced Aneurysm".
- "Ralph Macchio talks Karate Kid's return with Cobra Kai". SI. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- "The 2018 Fictitious Athlete Inductions". Fictitious Athlete Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
- Due to Daniel being in college in The Karate Kid Part III, which takes place the following school year, they had to change his birthdate from 1968 to 1966. While originally he was intended to be 15 turning 16 in The Karate Kid, his current canon birthdate is December 18, 1966, making him 8 months older than Johnny Lawrence and two years older than Ali Mills.
- Powell, Larry; Garrett, Tom (December 20, 2013). The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid and Other Underdogs. McFarland. ISBN 9780786490479. Retrieved June 25, 2018 – via Google Books.
- "The Karate Kid Is All Grown Up and Actually the Bad Guy Now". Esquire. 22 March 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Hyde, Douglas (2005-02-08). "The once and future 'Karate Kid'". CNN. Retrieved 2019-05-16.
- Prewitt, Alex (2018-05-01). "The Crane Kick Is Bogus: A Karate Kid Oral History". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
- "The Way of Fatherhood, as seen in "Cobra Kai"". Salon. 17 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- "Is Johnny The Real Hero of THE KARATE KID? – Nerdist". 27 August 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Calia, Michael (24 August 2015). "Is Daniel LaRusso the Real Villain of 'The Karate Kid'?". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- "Ralph Macchio is still Daniel LaRusso in "Cobra Kai", but he's no longer a "Karate Kid"". Salon. 29 April 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
- Gonzalez, Sandra (April 29, 2013). "'How I Met Your Mother' recap, 'Bro Mitzvah': The REAL Karate Kid". ew.com. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
- Karate Kid: Daniel and Mr. Miyagi auditions, 1983
- Karate Kid: Ali and Daniel rehearsal, 1983
- Karate Kid: Daniel and Johnny rehearsal, 1983
- Daniel Vs. Johnny Debate: Who's The REAL Bad Guy? | Cobra Kai | Netflix
- Cobra Kai, Season 3: Daniel, Johnny & Ali Reunion Scene - Netflix
- Karate Kid II: Daniel, Chozen, Kumiko, 1986
- Cobra Kai, Season 3: Chozen and Daniel reunion
- Cobra Kai, Season 3: Kumiko and Daniel reunion